The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Al Lyons “Tilt-O-Whirl”


He did not want to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl. He hadn’t wanted to go to the parking lot carnival, at all. He wanted to go to the movies. It was only their third date. She had run toward the midway, and he had no choice but to follow.

Since their arrival, he had been scrambled on the Scrambler, plunged from the Tower of Doom, hung upside down from the Loop of Fire, and survived the spinning, twisting yellow cars of the Octopus.

“We’ve got to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl,” she said, “it’s my all-time favorite ride.”

“I thought the Scrambler was your favorite ride?” he protested.

“No, no, no”, she clarified, “The Scrambler is my second favorite ride. The Tilt-O-Whirl is my favorite”.

He did not want to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl. He’d only just finished a Polish sausage sandwich, half a funnel cake, and a fried Twinkie. He had vivid fears of their expatriation. His stomach was uneasy, and poised for revolt.

“The Tilt-O-Whirl, silly!” she said, pulling him forward. She studied the motion of the cars, as they waited in line, to identify the one with the most spin. When it was their turn, she selected that car, accordingly.

He did not want to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl, but there he was, nonetheless. Their tickets taken, lap-bar in place, the ride proceeded to move. Slowly at first, then gathering momentum, the cars began to spin. They were spinning first, in one direction, over the bump, then the other direction. He could hear her screaming ecstatically beside him. His knuckles were white on the lap bar and his head pressed hard against the back board as the G’s of spin pinned them to the wall of the car.

Somehow, his queasy stomach held its own, the ride slowed, until the car was just rocking back and forth, then braking to a stop.

“That wasn’t so bad,” He thought, and suddenly, he felt flooded with feelings of exhilaration from the entire evening: the lights, the food, the rides, the spectacle. Most of all, he was aware of how much he loved her. He wanted to tell her right then and there. He wanted to scream it to the world. He wanted to tell her before the moment got away.

He turned to her, but she was quiet and looking in the other direction, toward the bright lights of the midway. He nudged her on the shoulder, and she turned to him slowly. Her face was ashen, her eyes red, her lips quivering.

Then, she vomited in his lap.